Webblog: Michigan Coaching Mailbag

The rumor mill is swirling faster than ever in Ann Arbor. Was Brady Hoke told his fate before the Ohio State game? Did the Wolverines chances at Jim Harbaugh recently take a hit? We tackle those questions and more in today's Webblog.

Question: Was Brady Hoke told before the Ohio State game that his tenure is over?

Answer: Multiple sources tell me the answer to that question is no, Hoke was not told prior to OSU. Doesn't mean it won't happen... but I talked to him 1-on-1 Wednesday afternoon... then made a number of calls today. Unless he has told literally no one, and unless Hackett has been similarly tight lipped, no internal word has been passed along yet.

Question: When can we expect an announcement on Hoke’s future to be made?

Answer: The following is SPECULATION and not anything I’ve been told.  I wouldn't be surprised if Hoke was told something before the team meeting Tuesday.  There's just no need to delay a decision unless they want to put off doing anything until after the football bust on the 8th.  If they decide to fire him they wouldn't gain anything from holding off until after the bust since the distraction and questions would still be there. If they decided to shock the fan base and retain Hoke they hurt recruiting unnecessarily by waiting. Not to mention its the right thing to do personally and professionally for a guy that has given his all to the job. Same goes for his staff. It's just wrong to leave guys dangling.

So I'm guessing we'll hear something this week, and probably before the team meeting on Tuesday.

Question: Are Michigan's coaches slated to be on the road recruting this week?

Answer: We've confirmed that they're expected at a handful of high schools this week, which suggests that the coaches plan to take a business as ususal approach to recruiting. There are also December campus visits scheduled. All those interactions could be cancelled of course, but for now they haven't. Which further confims the answer to the first question.

Question: Does Adam Schefter’s tweet about trade rumors heating up with Harbaugh represent a shift in momentum away from Michigan?

Answer:  No. Those that think it does probably had it in their minds that Harbaugh to Michigan was already close to being a done deal. I've tried to temper the "his return to Michigan is already done" sentiment as much as possible here because it's not.  But folks so badly want to believe it's done that those efforts often of fall on deaf ears.  I still think Harbaugh expectations should be tempered, but I wouldn't let my hopes be totally dashed by Schefter's tweet.  From what I'm told Harbaugh will definitely be interested in Michigan if the Wolverines ask him to come back home.

That said, I spoke with a Harbaugh source this afternoon that said after a conversation with Harbaugh last night he now fears that the Jets would be the biggest threat because the talk is they'd be willing to give Harbaugh coach AND GM duties.  Any franchise offering up dual roles will increase their chances in the race for his services.

But I'll go back to what I said this morning... I think it's prudent at this stage I to look at all of the possible NFL jobs collectively as ONE opportunity and Michigan another.  As I've been saying, I’m told he would be interested in Michigan, but only he knows if he is interested enough to pass up another NFL opportunity.

Question: Does Harbaugh having one year left on his deal limit what teams are willing to give up for him?

Answer: Any trade involving Harbaugh would almost certainly be contingent upon an extension.  The 49ers wouldn't just receive limited returns for Harbaugh in a contract year, they'd receive no return at all because no NFL team would make that trade. So the ball is still in Harbaugh's court.

Question: I know everyone, including me is enamored with JimH being the next Michigan coach, but are we blinded by his Michigan ties, his hatred of Ohio State, his good not great success at Stanford, his familiarity with Michigan traditions and the fact he played for Bo??? Is it a worry at all that Jim has worn out his welcome at SF, supposedly with players and front office?

Answer:You aren’t blinded. I think you just see the positives far outweighing the negatives, which is okay.

You see a coach that has turned programs at San Diego, Stanford, and San Francisco around virtually overnight. And they didn’t just get good… they got championship level good. Quarterbacks have thrived under him and his teams exude toughness. According to numerous reports (Jay Glazer, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, etc…) many of his players downright DESPISE him, and yet the 49ers are still playing decent football (recent poor performances notwithstanding). There’s an aura about him that will give Michigan instant credibility. And he is a Michigan guy. That’s not a prerequisite for the job (or at least it shouldn’t be), but it certainly will help him navigate the treacherous political waters that flow around the program (at the player AND fan level).

So if we were talking Harbaugh going to coach at a school other than Michigan the acrimony between him and his players, and him and his bosses might be a greater cause for alarm. As it stands I’m sure it’ll be something Michigan’s admins discuss. Ultimately I think it will come down to them knowing what they’re getting into. They’ll have to know he will demand a level of control here that Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez weren’t given. Anything to do with the football program would be his call. Period! Disciplinary decisions will be 100% his choice. Legacy jerseys? His choice. If admissions needs to be approached about a player, he’ll be the one to do it, not the athletic director. Any statements that he makes are 100% his and won’t be handed to him or have to be approved by others. And if he does or says something to offend someone (like the comments about Michigan’s academics seven years ago or his comments that same year claiming that he was told by Pete Carroll’s assistants that Carroll was planning to quit at the end of the year) no one will instruct him to apologize. In short the athletic director will need to get out of his way. I think most fans are okay with that… and because of the current climate in Ann Arbor I suspect there’s an increased probability that the admin would be too.

Why you ask? Because in most instances it doesn’t matter how abrasive a coach is as long as he wins. Many call Bill Belichek a jerk. Same thing with Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. And before you say “but at least their players like them” I’ll give you another example named Bob Knight. Many of his players thought him to be a colossal jerk, but he won titles. And besides, if Harbaugh ran into some problems with players thinking he’s too abrasive and transferring as a result, no one will make a federal case out of it like they did with Rodriguez. Harbaugh would get the grace period that comes with being a Michigan man.

Now do I think he is the only coach who could be successful? No. Names like Jim Mora Jr, Jim Mcelwain, Bob Stoops would be worth exploring.  Brett Bielema isn’t a popular name in fan circles, but he did take Barry Alavarez’s program and make it better imo, knows the Big Ten, and now he is making progress in one of the toughest leagues in the country. Names like Butch Jones and Steve Adazzio and possibly even those of assistants like Tom Herman, Kirby Smart, Chad Morris, and Todd Bowles are intriguing. I can’t imagine Michigan vetting all of those coaches and not finding one or two that they thought could really move the program in a positive direction.
One thing to really take into account with all of those guys is they would likely be around longer than Harbaugh (which is one of the few advantages any of them would have in a comparison).

So that you and others see Harbaugh as the best option is understandable, but he is not the only option.

But first things first. Michigan has to make clear its intentions.

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